At any moment, Elliot expected sheriff deputy cruisers and possibly the SWAT team to descend on the area. He vowed at the first sight of whirling red and blue lights he would jump. His partners had stolen their clients’ money and caught a plane to Mexico. All Elliot knew was they left him holding the empty bag. They were kind, or cruel, enough, to leave a letter on his desk stating they were hightailing it out of town before the cops arrived. Apparently they received word Mrs. Whitely and Mr. Butterfield reported their missing funds to the district attorney.
Elliot peered up the street and saw red lights. Heaving a deep breath, he stepped toward the edge of the roof and looked down. His ancient Honda Civic was parked in his reserved space. He hadn’t had a chance to get a new car since the promotion. The two spaces next to his which usually cradled a matching pair of Cadillacs were empty. ‘That’s where I’ll land,’ he thought. The letter he hand wrote and tucked into the inner lapel pocket of his suit coat would explain. He took another step toward the edge and looked at the street again.
“Oh, my! These rocks are slippery! Oh! Help!” A voice cried out, distracting Elliot from his purpose. Shocked, he quickly moved toward a figure which had appeared from nowhere. The man had fallen down onto the gravel and tar roof leaving his feet hanging over the edge. Elliot quickly moved toward the strange man, grabbed his outstretched arms and pulled him backward, away from the edge of the roof.
“Oh, thank you, my boy. You know, that’s just the traffic light up there. No cops are coming...well, not yet.” The man rose to his feet, flicked off a few pieces of gravel stuck to his brown, plaid suit and stuck out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Elliot Ruhn. My name’s Clarence. Clarence Oddbody.”
Elliot automatically clasped the man’s hand, enduring an intense shaking for quite a few moments. “How do you do? Wait! How do you know...I mean...who are you and why are you here?”
Clarence took Elliot by the elbow and led him sit on to a low, asphalt shingle covered wall surrounding an air conditioning unit. “There’s no need in killing yourself, son. What will your mother say? It wouldn’t be fair to desert her now! Her heart couldn’t take it. Besides, I’m sure we can get the two million dollars back.”
“Yeah, like that? How do you know that? How’d you know I was thinking...well, explain where you came from!” Elliot was understandably upset. Clarence was an older fellow, with a ruffled shirt beneath his suit coat and longish white hair. The mode of dress was odd for 2012-the man looked like he stepped out of the 1800’s.
“That’s simple to explain. See, I’m your guardian angel.” Clarence sat back; satisfied the answer would explain everything.
“Guardian angel? You? That’s crazy. There isn’t any such thing...person. Besides, where’s your wings, angel?”
“Aww, that’s why I’m here, I’ve got to earn them. I’m here to help you, Elliot.”
“Great. You got two million dollars on you, angel?”
“Oh, no, we don’t use American money in Heaven. But we’ll get that missing money back for you. Tell you what, you help me win my wings and I’ll help you retrieve the misappropriated funds.” Clarence was serious. Elliot was skeptical.
“Hang on a second. This whole thing sounds familiar. Yeah, in that movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” That angel’s name was Clarence. He was a clockmaker. What is this, a weird dream? ”
“No, no. Not a dream or a nightmare, for that matter. Yes, you are correct. That was me. Except in life I was actually a watchmaker. Rumor was they altered my occupation because that guy playing Joseph wanted to sound extra sarcastic and he could drawl out claaaukmaaker better than watchmaker. Boy did I get in trouble with the real Joseph for signing on to play that part. Only now has he allowed me to try again to win my wings and that incident was longer ago that I was alive in the first place. You’ll help me, won’t you, son?”
Both men stared at their feet. Elliot’s black shoes shone against the flat black of the tar on the roof. By contrast, the pewter buckle on the extremely worn brown leather, lace up boots on Clarence’s feet barely reflected the afternoon sun.
“This material. The black tar. It’s like those places out west where they found dinosaur bones, if you believe those stories. Why is it on the top of this building?”
“Huh? Oh, it seals against the elements and holds the gravel-wait a second. Yes, the La Brae Tar Pits in California. Saber Toothed Tigers and such were found there and stop distracting me. How can a dead watchmaker help me? Why don’t you just fly away?”
“Because I haven’t gotten my wings! Elliot, I’m your guardian angel. It’s my job to help you.”
Elliot released a sound of disgust and disbelief. He rose to walk toward the stairway but stopped when Clarence spoke.
“You believe in the dinosaurs and you haven’t ever seen a live one. Why not believe in me? I’m here to help you. We’ll get ‘em, Elliot, we will.”
Sighing, Elliot remembered George Bailey from the movie and experienced a very odd sensation. His very own Clarence Oddbody knew everything that was happening-even that Elliot lived with, and cared for, his mother who was suffering from congestive heart failure. He continued his escape from the roof with Clarence following the younger man down the stairs.
Back in his office, Elliot shook off the strange feeling and stared at his diplomas and certificates on the wall. All was ruined by his two, greedy bosses. The depression he had felt earlier gave way to anger. Let the sheriff come. He had done nothing wrong. Unlike George Bailey, he wasn’t going to take the blame for his partners’ deeds. George’s Uncle Billy simply made a mistake. Cheatham and Ruckham were criminals. Hearing someone shuffling down the hall, he rose to his feet, ready to make war if necessary.
“Ha! I knew it. Joseph was right. Elliot! He said to look under the desks. Lookee here! Joseph told me...ah, how the Almighty works in mysterious ways. Those buggers forgot their passports!” He held up a manila envelope to spill the contents onto Elliot’s desk. Two small booklets slid out. “Where did the letter say they were going?”
Elliot fumbled to open the folded paper which had been stuffed in the pocket with his own suicide note. After tearing the latter into shreds, he focused on the laser printed words under the company letterhead. Grinning, he looked up. “Let me make one phone call and then we’re headed to the airport. They should just now be trying to board a flight to Mexico City at the International terminal. Clarence, you saved my life. Let’s go catch the bad guys!”
The sheriff received news of Cheatham and Ruckham’s likely location from the third partner Ruhn with surprise and relief. He, and several deputies, arrived at the gate where the flight to Mexico City had just completed boarding without two of the first class passengers. Clarence had ridden, terrified, in the Honda and Elliot lost track of the angel in the busy terminal.
The police found one million dollars in each of Cheatham and Ruckham’s carry-on bags. The two men had been denied boarding passes after being unable to produce their passports. They panicked upon seeing police, but were taken into custody without incident.
Elliot stood in the background while his bosses were ushered away. The sheriff stated the cash would be logged in as evidence, and then returned to the firm. As remaining manager of the CPA firm, he was to handle it as was appropriate. The sheriff also suggested changing the firm name from “Cheat ‘em Rook ‘em and Run.” Elliot nodded understanding and watched the group walk away. Suddenly a woman carrying a small dog ran past and Elliot heard a strange sound. A bell on the dog’s collar was ringing due to the woman’s bouncy stride. The little dog barked at him as he looked into the air and said, “Atta boy Clarence!”